ISLAM AND THE MODERN SCIENCES
1. Education has always played a dominating role in forming the destiny
of nations and people. Muslims saw their prime owing largely to educational and
intellectual fields. Now, considering the present state, top educationists and
intellectuals of the Muslim world have been emphasising upon the importance of
educational reforms. Increasing the priority of educational is the answer to
many questions. However, it takes a back seat when viewed in relation to the
immediate steps that every one wants to take individually to solve the problems
in hand at a particular time.
2. A state
of helplessness seems to have set in where the Muslims all over the world have
conformed to and accepted their present value in the eyes of the world. The West
has also endeavoured to undermine and disparage the contributions made by the
Muslims in all the scientific fields. The tendency of terming Islam as a
religion that is out of touch with the realities of the present world has become
a norm. To make the matters worse, there is a constant brain drain in progress
where the able Muslims opt to pursue their goals of prosperity and move in to
the clutches of the West to have their skills exploited at will. Their countries
of origin have failed to stop this drainage. Resultantly, the capabilities of
the Muslims are not properly tapped to benefit the very societies that need them
the most. Lack of good governance, mismanagement and lure of the West has
created a vicious cycle that if continued will keep the Muslims at the mercy of
the West and their interpretations.
Undoubtedly, science and technology is the engine of modern development. But to
utilise the engine one needs a perfect and secure vehicle, a proper road to
drive and then traffic laws to reach the destination after a safe and secure
4. There is a need to understand what and how Muslim Ummah should proceed in
general in order to revive and exploit the universal appeal of their religion in
relation to the scientific education. In order to regain the lost confidence and
to inspire the Muslim youth about their rich heritage, there is a requirement to
highlight the truth about the share of contribution of Islam to the benefit of
the humanity. After analyzing the factors leading to the retardation in the
field of education, a remedial strategy to start a reversal of the state of
Muslims can be worked out.
5. The aim
of this paper is to analyse the role of contributions of Muslims in the fields
of science and intellectual development, the factors leading to the downturn of
the Muslim’s progress including the current brain drain phenomenon, in order to
recommend remedial measures.
Sequence. The sequence of this paper is as following:-
a. Part I. Muslim’s contribution towards scientific and intellectual fields.
b. Part II. Reasons and effects of current brain drain phenomenon
c. Part III. Misrepresentation of Islam being a medieval religion.
d. Part IV. Recommendations.
MUSLIM’S CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS SCIENTIFIC AND INTELLECTUAL FIELDS
Concept of Education.
greatly emphasised on the importance of education to conquer the forces and
resources of nature. That is possible only through the acquisition of adequate
knowledge through a well-balanced, elaborate and all-embracing system of
education. It involves harnessing human potential and then to utilize external
forces in subservience to the Qur’anic values for the benefit of all the
mankind. This provides us “identity, self-discipline and academic pursuits - all
of the highest excellence but our difficulty, without any conspicuous flamboyant
grandiloquent style and scintillating phrase, is that we overpower the forces of
nature without being able to overwhelm the forces which lie within ourselves ”
Contribution of Muslims.
and glorious heritage of Muslims can be recalled by briefly surveying what Islam
has already contributed to the world’s civilization, education, culture and to
scientific development. A few of the examples of contributions made by the
Muslim Scientists in the field of science include the following.
a. Numerology. Muhammad Ibn Musa, who was also the first to use the decimal
point notation, invented the zero.
b. Trigonometry / Sine / Tangent / Co - Tangent. The Arabs developed these and
Ibn Musa’s work “Hisab-Al Jab-Wal Muqabala” (meaning the Calculation of
Integration and Equation) presented 800 examples in the eight century. His work
was translated from Arabic into Latin and until the 16th century, it was
Europe’s main text book on the subject.
c. Geometry / Algebra. Another great mathematician was Omar Khayyam, who offered
to the world geometric as well as algebraic solutions of the second degree.
Nasiruddin wrote the treatise on the quadrilateral trigonometry, as well as
plain and spherical geometry.
d. Physics. Kamaluddin examined the refraction of sun light in raindrops and
actually explained the genesis of primary and secondary rainbows. The story of
the invention of the pendulum and the presentation of a water clock to Emperor
Charlemagne by Harun Al Rashid is well known.
e. Science of Mechanics. The development of science of Mechanics in Islam is an
act of genius. Musa Ibn Shakir described one hundred pieces of mechanical
equipment in his book of artifices. Other outstanding Muslim treatises included
“Al Kitab Fi Marifat Al Hiya Al Handasiyya” (The Book of the Knowledge of
Ingenious Geometrical Contrivances” by Abul Fiaz Ibn Al Raz. He also did work on
accurate weighing, determination of specific Gravity.
f. Camera Obscura. In the field of optics, Camera Obscura was invented by Ibn
Haitham in 1038 AD.
g. Theory of Relativity. Hazrat Qazi Abu Bakr had developed the theory of
relativity in the Eighth Century in terms of time and space by means of
mathematical equations and Astrophysics. Imagine Einstein wasn’t even born in
the western world, who propounded the same theory of relativity in the Twentieth
h. Geography. As far as Geography was concerned, the Muslim Scientists
established in the ninth century that the world was round and under the
Caliphate of Mamun, the first map of the globe was made.
i. Paper Makings. This was one of the earliest skills attained by the Muslims.
As early as the Eighth Century, high quality paper was being manufactured in
Samarkand. Egypt was known to have its first paper mill in the year 900 A.C. The
earliest Arabic manuscript written on paper that has been discovered is the
Gharib Al Hadith by Abu Ubayed, dated 837 A.C. It can be seen in Holland
preserved in the Library of University of Leyden.
j. Advances in the Industry. Spain under the Islamic rule was an industrial
centre. It was one of the wealthiest and thickly populated of European
countries. Muslims were leading in Weaving Wool, Silk, Home Pottery, Jewellery,
Leather and Perfume Industry. In the middle ages, the world trade was commanded
by the Muslims and Baghdad, Bokhara and Samarkand remained centers for world
fairs until the 16th Century.
k. Libraries. The Bait Al Hikmah, at Cairo contained 2 Million books, the
library at Tripoli some 3 Millions but the Christians burnt down this library
during the first crusade. Many such libraries were burnt down during the
Crusades and it is interesting to note that where the books on theology were
destroyed, those on scientific subjects were preserved by them for their own
9. It was not science only, which brought Europe back to life. Other and
manifold influence from the civilization of Islam communicated its first glow to
European Life. Although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which
the decisive influence of Islamic Culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so
“clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the
permanent distinctive force of the modern world, and the supreme source of its
victory, natural science and the scientific spirit ”.
10. Important fields like Astronomy and Mathematics were imported by the Greeks
and were never properly absorbed by their culture. The subjects remained
generalized in nature until “the patient ways of investigation, the accumulation
of positive knowledge, the minute method of science, detailed and prolonged
observation and experimental inquiry ” were introduced by the Muslims.
this aside, let us consider the scientific facts in the Holy Quran. It is
indicated that the earth was previously a part of the sun and after its
separation; it became a habitable place for humanity, as mentioned in Surah 21,
Ayat 30. That the matter is made up of sub atomic particles (Surah, 10, Ayat
61). That the embryo in the mother’s womb in enclosed by 3 epithelial coverings
(Surah 39, Ayat 6). That each human being has a unique fingerprint (Surah 75,
Ayat 4) etc. etc. There are thousands of other scientific facts in the Holy
12. It was
under the influence of the Arabs and Moorish revival of culture and not in the
15th century, that a real renaissance took place. Spain, not Italy, was the
cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily sinking lower and lower into
barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when
cities of the Saracen world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, and Toledo, were growing
centres of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there that the new
life arose which was to grow into new phase of human evolution. From the time
when the influence of their culture made itself felt, began the stirring of new
downfall of Muslims is not due to Islam as the West would have us believe but
due to Muslims themselves for their sheer neglect of Islamic principles. They
must realize that Islam has been and is undeniably the most progressive religion
which is in fact a way of life with a very wide scope.
Acknowledgement by Western Scholars. A few Western Scientists, historians and
intellectuals acknowledged the contribution of Muslims in various fields of
science and their effects on Western advancements. Some of the remarks are
a. Historian Gibbons. He wrote in his fifth volume of “Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire” that the science of Chemistry owes its origin and improvements to
the Muslims .
b. George Sarton . “It will suffice here to evoke a few glorious names without
contemporary equivalents in the West: Jabir ibn Haiyan, al-Kindi, al-Khwarizmi,
al-Fargani, al-Razi, Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Battani, Hunain ibn Ishaq, al-Farabi,
Ibrahim ibn Sinan, al-Masudi, al-Tabari, Abul Wafa, ‘Ali ibn Abbas, Abul Qasim,
Ibn al-Jazzar, al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, Ibn Yunus, al-Kashi, Ibn al-Haitham, ‘Ali
Ibn ‘Isa al-Ghazali, al-zarqab, Omar Khayyam. A magnificent array of names which
it would not be difficult to extend. If anyone tells you that the Middle Ages
were scientifically sterile, just quote these men to him, all of whom flourished
within a short period, 750 to 1100 A.D.”
c. Carra de Vaux. “Arithmetic and algebra also flourished alongside of
astronomy. This was the period of the cerebrated al-Khwarizmi whose name,
corrupted by the Latin writers of the West, gave us, it so believed, the term
Algorism (sometimes written Algorithm) .”
d. Silberberg. “Anyhow it is astonishing enough that the entire botanical
literature of antiquity furnishes us only two parallels to our book (of
ad-Dinawari, died 895 C.E.). How was it that the Muslim people could, during so
early a period of its literary life, attain the level of the people of such a
genius as the Hellenic one, and even surpass it in this respect? [Ad-Dinari
wrote ‘Kitab an-Nabat’ (Encyclopaedia Botanica) in six thick volumes. It was
written before any translation of Greek works into Arabic “.
e. Joseph Hell . “In the domain of trigonometry, the theory of Sine, Cosine and
tangent is an heirloom of the Arabs. The brilliant epochs of Peurbach, of
Regiomontanus, of Copernicus, cannot be recalled without reminding us of the
fundamental and preparatory labour of the Arab Mathematician (Al-Battani,
REASONS AND EFFECTS OF CURRENT BRAIN DRAIN PHENOMENON
Understanding Brain Drain
Drain Defined. It can be defined as an emigration of students who do not return
home after training. To a lesser (though growing) extent, it is
“highly-qualified people leaving their home-country after finishing their
education” . The exodus of educated people has become the epitome of wasted
resources for advanced countries. Developing countries are at special risk
because they lose highly skilled individuals. The migration of students from
poor countries is now a long-term trend that educational improvements in the
countries-of-origin have not yet managed to alter.
Statistical Analysis. One of the main problems of analyzing brain-drains is the
lack of data. There are many gaps. It is hard to say who the migrants are. There
are no statistical tools and the flow of people is little understood. The only
overall figures available are those of UNESCO for students, along with a few
country-of-origin studies which do not include any country-comparative figures.
Ironically, there is no separate data available on the magnitude of brain drain
in the Muslim World.
Historical Perspective. The world saw the brain drain phenomenon in Europe,
where many scientists and scholars left their insecure environments to live in
the United States. The same scientists helped the host country in dominating the
world during and after the World War II. Thus, the nation that produced
excellent brains suffered where as another benefited merely by exploiting the
opportunities available with her due to good governance and social values.
Effects. Immigration out of and in to a country has its cost effects. These
costs run in millions and billions. The cost of investment in postsecondary
education, loss of tax revenue and the costs of settlement, language training
and skills upgrading are distributed among the host countries and countries of
origin. The countries of origin loose more due to weaker economic and social
Reasons Leading to Brain Drain
of Education. One of the main reasons is the perceived value, career-wise, of a
diploma obtained in a rich country. Looking at the issue of development in
science and technology areas, we see that industrial and technological
development largely depends on financial and economic stability and growth. The
economic stability depends on social and political environment.
Education Used as an Industry. Higher education has become a lucrative and
competitive market in the rich countries, where economic and financial
considerations sometimes clash with academic and human ones. In this market,
universities are behaving these days according to how many foreign students they
can take. Due to the lack of educational institutions with equivalent facilities
and repute, Muslim youth with the resources to pursue higher education prefer to
spend billions for getting the quality education from the West. During their
stay in Western countries they are introduced to and attracted by the Western
social values and lifestyle that in turn motivates them in to staying there on
completion of their education.
21. Socio-Political Stability. Social and political stability in any society
depends on the degree of social values, justice and supremacy of law and order.
These are all inter-related and inter-dependent factors. Hence, the bottom-line
is, a country cannot succeed in any sector without achieving the prerequisites
and without setting her priorities for the rest of the sectors. The progress can
not be started from the middle but needs a strong base to start working on.
Strong nations started from scratch and though it took time for them to reach
where they are today, the resulting prosperity and strength are firm and less
likely to be affected by minor irritants.
of Better Opportunities. This quest for opportunity is part of the human
experience. It is part of culture and sociology. It is a reality enshrined in
the spirit of man that he is a mobile, migratory creature. He moves, when there
is no grass on the prairie, to a greener pasture.
Immigration Policies of the Western Countries. The Western countries want
immigrants presumably, to replenish an aging and diminishing population in order
to sustain economic growth. They want economic growth to retain a competitive
edge in the global economy. They want to retain this edge because they want to
maintain a high standard of living for their population.
a. Preferences. They “prefer the scientists and engineers with further emphasis
on research and development activities” . These sectors are indeed considered as
the new major source of wealth and indicate the stage at which a particular
society has reached.
b. Environments. The expatriate scientists and engineers work in an environment,
which is far better than the one of their peers in the country of origin. They
indeed have access to funding, technical support, equipment, scientific
networks, experimental conditions, and many other resources, which are much more
limited at home.
Globalization and the Movement of Intellectual Capital and Skills. In the age of
globalization and new information technologies that facilitate the rapid
transfer of ideas and money, a global concept of intellectual capital is
emerging. An international community is developing that connects people based on
shared interests and values, with less concern for where ideas are generated. In
this era of competitiveness, companies are after the best and the brightest
ideas and people regardless of where they come from.
MISREPRESENTATION OF ISLAM BEING A MEDIEVAL RELIGION
Portraying Islam as a medieval religion today is continuation of an extensive
campaign to weaken the Muslim’s commitment and attachment to Islam. This
campaign started when the light of Islam was still being spread in Europe. After
many failed attempts to check the advance of Islam, the enemies set out to
investigate carefully for more devious and long lasting. They concluded that the
strength of Muslims stemmed from their religion and belief. They set out to
change their understanding and application of the Shariah and to turn the great
principles in Islam from active to passive and uninspiring elements.
26. Intellectual Incursions. It was through process of introducing (under the
guise of logic and common sense) certain philosophical concepts that led to much
controversy. The results were disastrous for Muslims with emergence of sects and
defeats in the wars against Christian crusaders. The intellectual onslaught was
at its height during the 17th century. Slow but steady weakening of Muslims
continued till they were at the mercy of the westerns at the end of the 18th
century resulting in colonialism. During the colonial rule, Muslims were
deliberately prevented from progress and their educational system was
systematically devastated. Muslims saw colonialists grab their property and
resources, degrading their character and ridicule their religion.
the Second World War several independent Muslim states appeared on the map of
the world, and it seemed that the Muslims would soon take strides leading to a
fresh efflorescence of its culture and civilization. But in the
post-independence period, one could clearly see dearth of creative energy and
lack of intellectual courage. This led many to conclude that perhaps the Islam
as a religion was the basic cause of this decay. This misrepresentation of Islam
that has found new height after the September 11 can be summarized in the
a. Extremism. Extremism and unaccommodating attitude towards other religions or
communities as taught in the madrassas and so called Islamic organizations in
countries like Yemen, Sudan, Algeria, Afghanistan etc present a wrong image of
Islam to the world. The Islamic world faces a monolithic wall of suspicion and
fear regarding the alleged nature of Islamic resurgence and activism, which is
distorted as fundamentalism and terrorism. This is partly due to disinformation
campaign fostered world wide against Islam and partly due to our own
misinterpretation of Islam.
b. Islam and Muslims in the Media. Media coverage of Islam is on the rise. The
tone and substance of such coverage, however, leaves many Muslims concerned
about the negative image that is being relayed to Western public. However, it is
important to note that, in almost all cases, negative coverage takes the form of
sensational reporting on “exotic or violent behavioural attributes of
individuals or groups of individuals” . Objective analyses are usually lacking
and whenever Islam’s teachings and dictates are cited, in order to give the
appearance of objectivity, they are taken out of context. The real damage is
done when the writer, with superficial and sometimes biased notion of Islam,
claims authority and seeks justification through misguided reading or
interpretation of Quran or Hadith.
c. Generalising Islamic Label. At present the major flash points happen to be in
Muslim majority areas. The violence in Muslim countries is mostly related to
internal problems; their struggles are not over any religious issue. In
Dagestan, Grozny, and Kashmir, the fighters are being called Muslim rebels
though their cause is not just based on religion. In Afghanistan in-groups
struggle for control of the country has nothing to do with Islam; they fight
among themselves because they are hostile to one another but still, they are
portrayed as fighters for Islam.
d. Western Culture/Values. The fallacy of the west regarding their own
civilization as the yardstick to judge the whole world has led them to believe
anything not western to be backward.
e. Civilisation Clash. In the words of Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard
University, “the next world war, if there is one, will be a war between
civilisations ”. He maintains that differences among civilizations are basic,
involving history, language, culture, tradition and, most importantly, religion.
The united efforts of other civilisations are likely to be directed in
abolishing Islam as a religion and civilisation.
f. Backwardness. Muslim world as a whole suffers from lack of development and
backwardness, particularly in the fields of Industry, management and science.
Despite their vast natural wealth, talent and 30-50 years of independence many
Muslim countries could not progress at the desired pace. Though these conditions
are after effects of the colonial misrule, the results are wrongly related by
the West to the religion itself.
to Struggle. The vibrant societies have a will to live and struggle for a
better place in the world. Choosing the right direction with appropriate
methodology to direct the struggle is important. Being a Muslim the only way to
solve our problems and also to achieve progress is to revive our true faith in
Islam, to reduce our dependence on the West. We should concentrate our efforts
on implementing the complete code of Islam in every walk of life, and in all
spheres of social life. So we can say with conviction that the survival of
Muslims lies in their religion itself and not in denying its universal appeal.
of Organisations. As already mentioned, most of the Muslim world
organisations are regional interest oriented. Organisation of Islamic Conference
is also doing little in the larger interest of the Ummah. Most of its
declarations of intent are a mere lip service. There is a need to forge the
political will to accelerate economic cooperation, which is a sine qua non for
establishing mutuality of interests.
of Media. Media has played a negative role in portraying Islam as a medieval
religion. It can also be used to help create understanding between Islam and the
West. The effort needs to come from both sides.
a. Media need to take a more balanced and more understanding position.
b. More Muslims need to be visible in the Western media - in films, on
discussion programmes, on the radio and TV and so on. It would allow them to
project their point of view as well as to counter their exotic and alien image.
c. Major problems that cause so much anger and distress among Muslims need to be
addressed: those of the Bosnians in Europe, the Palestinians in the Middle East
and the Kashmiris in South Asia
Concept of Twin Cities and Universities. Sharing and transferring of
information among Muslim countries is possible through collaboration of
universities and establishing the concept of twin cities. The same concept is
working advantageously in the western world as well.
Sponsorship of Students and Scientists. Promising Muslim students should be
recognised and sponsored by governments to provide them high quality education
in affiliated universities round the Muslim world. These students will also be
indoctrinated to serve their nation rather than falling for a dreamy world away
from their home.
Strengthening the Industrial Base. Till the time Muslims have their own
strong industrial base, their security concerns, poverty and over dependence on
the West will continue. Serious efforts must be made to undertake joint
industrial ventures. Technical expertise must be canalised from within the
Islamic countries. This will help alleviate poverty and ensure best utilisation
of technical knowledge.
Possible Solutions to the Brain Drain Problem. The national and
international policies until the late 1980s focused on preventing or regulating
flow of skills. Later the flow of skills was accepted as a norm and organising
the skill abroad was added as a new option. The policies applied in the Muslim
countries-of-origin to tackle the brain-drain should involve following two
a. Recuperating people (persuading individuals to return home i.e. Brain Gain)
b. Recuperating skills (organising those abroad into a network i.e. Diaspora
c. Conditions. There are definitely no quick fixes to stop brain drains because
success depends very much indeed on the level of economic, scientific and
technological development of each country and on political leaders taking a
long-term view of the whole thing. These conditions are so far absent in most of
the Muslim countries. The return-home policies are very long-term operations
that can only work when the country-of-origin can offer prospective returnees
satisfactory career conditions in their field. This supposes a high level of
development. The solutions can only work under certain conditions.
(1) First, there has to be a sizeable scientific and technical or industrial
community in the country-of-origin.
(2) There has to be long-term political backing for the idea.
(3) Finally, the administrative and financial resources to organise such
networks and keep them going must be available.
Development of Socio-Cognitive Communities. There are numerous examples of
talented scientists or engineers being misused or underutilised when they go
back to their country of origin. Their abilities are disconnected from what used
to make them powerful. This leads to an approach emphasizing connectivity and
which departs from the traditional brain drain assumptions.
Gain. For the last two decades, the conception about the migration of skills has
evolved, putting stronger emphasis on brain gain, which is based on the idea
that the expatriate skilled population may be considered as a potential asset
instead of a definite loss. The scientists and engineers abroad appear as human
resources educated, trained through professional practice, and employed in much
better conditions than those the country of origin could have provided to them.
If such a country is able to use these resources largely shaped through others’
investments, it would then gain a lot.
37. The Diaspora Option. The diaspora option is more recent and proceeds
from a different strategy. It takes for granted that many of the expatriates are
not likely to return. They have often settled abroad and built their
professional as well as their personal life there. However, they may still be
very concerned with the development of their country of origin, because of
cultural, family or other ties. The objective, then, is to create the links
through which they could effectively and productively be connected to its
development, without any physical, temporary or permanent, return.
Advantages of the Diaspora Option.
a. It does not rely on a prior infrastructural massive investment.
b. Through the expatriates, the country may have access not only to their
individual embodied knowledge but also to the socio-professional networks in
which they are inserted overseas.
c. It is quite an extensive version of a connectivity approach. This is what is
at stake in such initiatives around the world today.
d. The time thus gained will reduce the effects of present precarious situation
networks need to emphasise on knowledge as well to gain more out of the
experience of the Muslim scientists abroad. These networks should have better
meaning and practicable measures added to their charter of duties that are
a. Student/Scholarly Networks. They should facilitate studies abroad and/or
reintegration into the highly qualified labour at home market afterwards. They
need to expand the scope in terms of activities and contributions to the country
b. Local Associations of Skilled Expatriates. Groups of highly skilled
professionals who should meet regularly on both a professional and social level.
The aim is to promote the professional interests of members as well as to
socialise on a more personal level.
c. Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) Programme. The
Muslim countries need to set up permanent structures to tap their expatriate
human resources through the TOKTEN programme more systematically. The list of
databases of people, organised by area for example, can constitute embryos of
d. Developing Intellectual/Scientific Diaspora Networks. Their aim should be to
make use of the highly skilled expatriate pool of their countries to contribute
to the development process of the home country.
Database. Technically, through the databases or information system of diaspora
network, it focuses on the information, which is useful, especially for building
41. Muslims need to regain their past glory through an organised and
consistent methodology. Only then the West will feel encouraged to trust the
Muslims in spite of hatred and mistrust sown by their forefathers over a long
period. The onus of proving the authenticity and credibility of Islam as a
modern religion lies with the Muslims. Instead of suffering from inferiority
complex and giving in to the harsh realities of the present time, Muslims must
to trust their capabilities to master their destiny as their predecessors did
under far worse conditions. Importance of education and morals are ordained for
the Muslims and the rewards are far reaching for the coming generations.
Inaction in this aspect will only strengthen the misconceptions of non-Muslims
42. It is
obvious that no religion with 14 centuries of history can be fairly reduced to
the one-line analysis of bigotry, be it past or present. It is therefore time
for the people of vision, both Muslim and Christian, to transcend their
positions and aim to build bridges towards each other. We need to understand one
another dispassionately, with a view to living together as good neighbours.
glorious past of Islam needs to be recalled with pride by all Muslims to derive
faith from the religion. If this reminiscence is not renewed and revived often,
it is likely to face the danger of receding into oblivion.
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